Welcoming Happy Hoppers into your Home

Welcoming Rabbits into your Home

Rabbits are masters at wrapping us around their little bunny paws. Yet, as adorable, cuddly, smart and entertaining little creatures as they are, they come with great levels of responsibility, as demonstrated in our article below…

Companionship

Rabbits are social creatures by nature and should preferably share their company with at least another rabbit of a similar size to avoid any bullying incidences. Siblings from the same litter tend to be compatible together but should be neutered. Unrelated females have a greater tendency to get along than unrelated males, who will most likely fight with and potentially injure each other.

It’s recommended to pair a neutered male with a neutered female, however, as with people, they may not take kindly to each other so let your vet advise you on how to properly introduce them to each other.

Child-friendly

Rabbits are not appropriate for younger children. They need to be handled with tenderness from a young age, so they grow to trust those who interact with them on a day to day basis, thereby becoming friendly and confident around people. These long-eared bundles of fluff require loving, patient owners who are willing to devote plenty of time to them and ensure they are given ample space and play opportunities. Rabbits have a lifespan of between 8 – 12 years, so owners must be committed to them for the long-run.

Living space

A hutch with a permanently attached run is an ideal home for a rabbit, regardless of whether they reside indoors or outdoors. They should be given the choice to be either inside the hutch or outside in the run. Cages are therefore a no-go as this eliminates their freedom of choice, thereby trapping them in a closed off space like a prison. 

The hutch should:

  • have enough space between the floor and ceiling so the rabbit can stand on their back legs without restriction and fully stretch out
  • have enough floor space for them to perform at least three to four hops
  • have separate feeding and toilet areas
  • have a toilet vicinity that is deep-sided and covered in newspaper and hay, so it can be regularly replaced with clean ones
  • have a space for rabbits to retreat to when in need of some privacy from their companions
  • have a floor lined with newspaper and straw or dust-free wood chippings to soak up any urine and keep their home cosy and comfortable
  • be dry, cool and well-ventilated. Heat can be detrimental to the fluffy dears so indoors, avoid radiators and heaters and outdoors, avoid facing the hutch in direct sunlight. Provide your cotton-tailed companion with warm bedding or move them indoors when the cold weather sets in.

Words of caution:

  • Indoor Rabbits – Bunnies love to gnaw on things and electric cables can prove to be especially hazardous. By covering them up with metal ducting you can keep a dangerous situation at bay. Wooden or laminate flooring can cause your bunny to slip, potentially straining their little lower backs so ensure there are carpets available for your bunny bop to utilise.
  • Outdoor Rabbits – Predators such as birds of prey, cats and snakes may be lurking in the midst to hunt your bunny buddy. Fear of predators can cause your rabbit much stress and panic so ensure they are protected in their hutch from any predators and are unable to see them if they do come into your garden, especially at night time. Place your bunny’s living space in a quiet and tranquil section of your garden, far away from loud neighbours and children, traffic or barking dogs

Diet

Rabbits have high maintenance digestive systems that require constant movement through the gut with the aid of a combination of digestible and indigestible fibre. A rabbit’s body is unable to absorb the necessary nutrients the first time the fibre passes through the digestive system, so they ingest it on round two by consuming their hard droppings. An imbalance of digestible and indigestible fibre can cause critical health issues to a bunny.

  • Hay and Grass: Superior quality hay and grass should form the majority of your bunny’s daily food intake. As rabbits’ teeth never stop growing, these foods are especially important to encourage gnawing to wear their choppers down.
  • Fresh green fruits and vegetables: Not only will these give your happy hoppers a nutritional boost, but they will introduce some variety to their diets. It must be cautioned, however, that quantity is key and only small amounts should be fed, especially fruits high in sugar.
  • Beneficial Greens for Bunny: Apples (pipless), asparagus, banana, basil, brussel sprouts, cauliflower leaves, celery, chicory, dill, fennel, green pepper, kale, mint, oregano, parsley, Savoy cabbage, spinach, turnip, watercress, red leaf lettuce, Romaine lettuce (Note: Large amounts of iceberg lettuce can cause upset stomachs)
  • Bad Greens for Bunny: Apple pips, avocado, carrot, potato, and potato tops, rhubarb (leaves and stalks), tomato leaves, locust pods and beans. Anything that grows from bulbs can be dangerous to your rabbit.
  • Fresh Water: Ample amounts of fresh, cool water must always be available to your bunny. Water should be changed daily and be vigilant that it hasn’t iced over in the colder months.
  • Common garden Plants Poisonous to Rabbits:
    autumn crocus, begonia, black nightshade, busy lizzie, buttercup, carnation, chrysanthemum, clematis, cowslip, geranium, hemlock, laburnum, laurel, poison ivy, poppy and yucca

Safe Handling

Give your new bunny a few days to ease into their new environment and family. Rather than picking them up, gently stroke and talk to them until such a time that you win their trust and they feel comfortable enough for you to hold them. When this special moment arises, use two hands to pick them up and secure most of their weight under the bottom hand. Do not handle your bunny from a height for the first couple of times as they may panic and jump, subsequently injuring themselves and their future trust in you. It’s advised to handle them on a soft surface like a towel or a carpet. Never hold your bunny by their ears or the scruff of their neck as this is excruciatingly painful and traumatising for them.

Grooming

Some long-haired bunny breeds require daily grooming to remove matted hair as well as the risk of hairballs. Use a comb/brush that’s made especially for rabbits. Never brush long-haired bunnies roughly as their skin can tear if the hair is pulled too hard.

Exercise and Play

Bunnies require both mental and physical stimulation in the form of play to avoid behavioural issues arising from boredom. Pet stores sell bunny-friendly toys and you can improvise with objects around the home such as small boxes for bunny to stand on, large enough pieces of plastic pipes that bunny can run through without the risk of getting stuck in etc. Foraging is an instinctive habit of rabbits so encourage this behaviour by allowing them to seek food concealed in piles of hay. Rabbits need space to run and hop, so create a large, safe and covered section in your garden or indoors for them to run a mock.

Adopt Don’t Shop – Bunny Adoption Facilities:

Johannesburg

Woodrock Animal Rescue

Little Critters Rescue Club

The Lonehill Bunnies

  • 082 888 5895

The Bunny Hop Haven

Cape Town

Happy Rabbit Rescue

Animal Rescue Organisation:

Barefoot Rescue

Noordhoek Bunnies

  • 062 124 5325

Cape of Good Hope SPCA

Written for inFURmation
by Taliah Williamson

 

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Disclaimer: The information produced by Infurmation is provided for general and educational purposes only and does not constitute any legal, medical or other professional advice on any subject matter. These statements are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease. Always seek the advice of your vet or other qualified health care provider prior to starting any new diet or treatment and with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you suspect that your pet has a medical problem, promptly contact your health care provider.